PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA TUNIS
A festive dessert for any springtime occasion
We don’t always think of milk as a seasonal item, commoditized as it is. But milk is often freshest in the spring, when baby animals are first born; the return to lactation after the winter hiatus from milk production is known as “freshening” for good reason. Of course, chèvre or goat cheese is available from the store year-round in most parts. But this cheesecake recipe is perfect for spring in other ways as well, being light and fresh and decadent all at once. With the tang of fresh chèvre, sweetness of sugar and floral bitterness from the lavender, this cheesecake stands up, crustless, adorned with berries, as the perfect harbinger of spring, in dessert form.
Butter, for springform pan
¾ cup sugar, plus more for the pan
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
12 ounces chèvre or fromage blanc
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons lemon zest (from about 3 Meyer lemons)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
6 eggs, separated
For topping (optional)
2 pints blueberries or mixed berries
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust the inside with white sugar.
Measure 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers into a mortar and grind with pestle until a fine texture is reached.
In a mixing bowl, combine the chèvre with ground lavender, lemon juice, Meyer lemon zest and vanilla. Add the egg yolks, 2 at a time, and sprinkle in the flour and sugar incrementally as you add the yolks. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Softly fold the egg whites into the chèvre mixture and pour into the buttered, sugared springform pan. Bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still a little jiggly.
While the cake bakes, make the topping. Combine 2 tablespoons honey with ¼ cup water and bring to a boil. Add the lavender flowers and remove from heat, allowing the lavender to steep while the cheesecake cooks and cools. Remove pan from the oven and allow it to cool, before running a butter knife around the edges of the pan to release the sides.
Unmold the cheesecake, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. To serve, toss the berries with the cooled honey lavender syrup. Lavender flowers in the honey syrup should be soft and sweetly edible, but can be strained out if desired. Scatter the glazed berries over the top and serve immediately. The honeyed syrup helps keep the berries in place. Enjoy! Yields 1 cake.